If a company signs up to be an exhibitor at a trade show, and they have not developed a trade show business plan, they are just attendee with a booth. Trade Shows are expensive. If a company intends to invest $15K to $250K or more in a major trade show they need to have a plan that will articulate what they intend to accomplish, how many qualified leads, based on their pre-show effort, they expect to obtain and their return On Investment (ROI) in the trade show. Besides the ROI at a trade show, an exhibitor should be looking at their Return on Objectives (ROO). Some exhibitors may not be focused primarily on generating opportunities, but on increasing their sphere of influence, on being noticed, on being consider a major technical resource for a particular industry. Both the ROI and ROO have to be taken into consideration when developing a marketing plan for a trade show.
There should be an overall trade show plan that takes into consideration all of the trade shows where the company will exhibit for the year. Then each trade show should be able to develop its own marketing plan for trade show success. The reason that each show should be unique is that the time of the year, the competition and industry are always in continuing change. What is happening at a trade show in an industry in January may not be the same for that industry in June.
This plan should be part of the company’s overall marketing plan, and comparison data should be made available to management that will substantiate and support their commitment to these trade shows.
For years companies have used two marketing plans, the first covered all of the advertising and literature required to present the company products in an effective way. The second, was a “add on” to the existing marketing plan that covered trade shows. If the company didn’t make its numbers in the third quarter, the first marketing causality was the trade shows budget. The marketing manager in his or her wisdom could show that they reduced their expenses by eliminating the trade shows for that quarter, or for the rest of the year. The problem with this approach is that it will now take the company twice as long to come back up to the original sales level because more effort has to be put into “cold calling” and unqualified sales opportunities. It is interesting that a company will have a sales person sit down and follow up on leads submitted by a trade publication, but will put qualified leads from a trade show on the back burner. I can guarantee that the majority of those people who filled out a form from a trade publication are just literature collectors, but when you get a qualified lead from a trade show, they really want to do business.